Simple Resolutions

I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions. But I am inclined to personal reflection. And there’s no better way to do that then by exploring, organizing, and purging one’s sewing workroom/art studio where a wide assortment of fiber arts have been created over the last few months. The piles and boxes under my work tables had become an unmanageable mess of fabric scraps and potential projects, all intermingled.  

As an artist/creator, I’ve often prided myself in not having many UFO’s – unfinished objects. But pride cometh before a purge. As I waded through my workroom’s intentional, and unintentional, UFO’s, I discovered a few things about myself.

I’ve been the happy recipient of a quilter friend purging her stash. We are in the process of making a number of lap quilts for teen girls in foster care who attend a summer camp I’ve been involved with over the last few years.  Each bag of fabric came with a few pre-cut pieces and a suggested simple pattern for a quilt block. While the pattern didn’t seem that challenging initially, I came to love the simplicity of the pattern because it still offered me an abundance of dynamic creative alternatives. As I’ve reflected on that pleasure, I’ve resolved to pursue a dynamic simplicity in other areas of my life.

Since early fall I’ve pieced four quilt tops and backs of varying size from the fabric she’s given me. But the more I cut and sew, the more my sewing room feels like a clown car! Trimmed and leftover bits and pieces accumulate into the possiblity of something else to create until it seems endless. Or until I become ruthless and resolve to throw the odd bits away. And that was surprisingly hard to do at first. My imaginative mind is always ready to say, “I can make this with that!” But after a while those creative possibilities become a burden, both in my mind and my workspace. 

A series of flat boxes in my studio I refer to as fermenting trays – boxes where I gather a variety of fabrics and other items for possible future creations. Some of these get made right away, but others languish in their “fermentation” because the original inspiration has goes flat. The idea has not grabbed me and insisted on being made. And when I look in the box I’m inclined to wonder what was I thinking when I put these things together.  This year’s exploring, organizing, and purging has given me the opportunity to reflect on my life as well as my creative process.

For years, I lived by the adage “Just because I can, doesn’t mean I should.” This year, in the process of sorting through my art and sewing space, I’m embracing an adage in harmony with my resolve for simplicity – “Just because I can, doesn’t mean I will.” Over the last few years, I discovered that my “want to” has aged. I still can do all sorts of things, but I don’t necessarily want to anymore. And maybe that’s why the simple patterns have been so pleasurable for me to work on. They represent a pattern of  life that I have already been moving toward for the last three years.

Over the New Year’s holiday, I tossed out bins and boxes of stuff from my workspace, there’s a growing mound of stuff gathering for the thrift store, and all the family photo gallery in the great room upstairs came down. Some photos have been unframed for simpler storage. Others will migrate to a new place in the house. A smaller, simpler collection of family photos has been re-hung.  They’ll be a simple, daily reminder of my resolution to pursue simplicity in my life.

If you were to explore, organize and purge the bins and boxes of your life, what simple resolutions might emerge for you? If your “want to” has aged, what will you choose not to do in the future? How will your life be different as a result? If you were to create a piece of art to honor that resolution, what would it look like?

I look forward to your comments!


12 comments to Simple Resolutions

  • Judy Siudara

    My “want to” has aged into bein gmore creative and involved in my friendships. I like the new personal touch to creating. Loved this article on another level because it reminded me of my dear, departed mother-in-law. She would easily have written this.thank you for your fabulous insights. Judy

  • Deanna J Bowling

    What an apropos piece for at least me for this week.

    Sometimes I spend part of the next morning trying to untangle my dreams of the night before. I had a particularly tangled dream before I woke up this morning, and now have figured out at least part of it. Part of last night’s/actually this morning’s, dream had to do with praying last evening for the team of doctors who are attempting to resolve the puzzle of a friend’s grim state of health.

    Part of my dream had to do with trying to go forward while wading through the existing messes of the past that I haven’t cleaned up yet/need to make some decisions about.

    It’s time for me too to decide as objectively as possible what to get rid of and what to keep based on who I am shaping into in the present.

    Thanks, Lynne, again.

  • Being a Baby Boomer who loves textiles I can so relate to this. I’m also realizing that “because I can doesn’t mean I will….or even want to.” I’m liking this age of downsizing, but find it’s in a constant state of movement. I don’t think I’ll ever “arrive.” But I am getting better at passing things by knowing “yes, I can do that, but do I want to enough to do it.” There is great freedom in knowing these differences and putting them into practice.

  • Jan Crews

    It seems we’re thinking in the same vein these days. I must continue to work, even for a few hours a week. At 61, I MUST go to the gym, even if I hate it. I want to keep a lovely home and prepare nourishing meals for my partner, and help with the care-providing for my grandchildren. Given those demands for my time, the boxes and boxes of fabric in my basement sewing room drain me of energy.
    How wonderful it would be to have only four or five projects-in-waiting in that room, but there are scores instead of a handful. And there are more supplies – for beading, felting, sewing, enameling, …. And there are books – quilting books, beading books, sewing books, …. (And with my mother’s illness this past year, I’m now saddled with boxes and boxes of her beautiful clothing and silver/crystal serving pieces. How to deal with all of them?!)
    Should I spend the energy to try to sell things on eBay, when the return is far less than the amount of energy I expend on the process? Should I just give to Goodwill, where the recipient won’t even realize the value of what she is getting? These are rhetorical questions whose answer will someday become clear.
    Simplifying one’s life is not easy, given all the decisions that go into the process.

  • Ginny

    Having reached the limits of my storage capacity for fabric this fall, I decided to purge and found the same thing had happened to me – the projects I had packaged up to work on as soon as the writing project got done or the kids went back to school or whatever…those projects made me scratch my head – why did I want to make purses out of Faith’s old jeans three years ago? Why did I think I wanted to make 4 purses out of jeans???? Combing through piles of fabrics and wannabe projects has been a window to how my mind works – I have been laughing as I’ve rummaged through things – but also occasionally found it hard to part with things – what if someday I again want to make purses out of old jeans and these are gone? I didn’t realize that I operated out of a paradigm of scarcity until I took a hard look at what I have saved. Time to let it go and trust that when I want to create, the materials I need will be at hand – I don’t need to save ridiculous things – there will always be fabric!!

  • cynthia

    one year ago, i did a major purge of my possessions before moving into a retirement home. mountains of fabric found new homes. ufo’s i didn’t like were put to rest. i even let go of most of my furniture because there wasn’t enough room for it. i felt sad for a short time. then i basked in the lightness i felt. i realized that all that stuff was a heavy burden. in the last year, i’ve replaced only 2-3 items that i released. it’s amazing what i can live without! i’m still collecting fabric but i’m more selective about what i keep. also i find that i’m more excited to upcycle something from a thrift store than to make a garment from sratch. i want my projects to be fast & easy. and unique. something noone else wears. fast & easy projects allow me the emotional & physical energy for a more balanced life–visiting with my neighbors, involvement in my church, etc. great topic, lynne. cynthia

  • Katrina

    Hi Lynne–
    I always enjoy your writings so much even tho I don’t comment. Most of my creativity in the past 16 years has taken place in the classroom–2nd grade or kindergarten. Lots of fun and LOTS of projects. Well, retirement and a move are both coming in June. Years ago I taught with a great gal who moved often and her motto was “if in doubt, throw it out!” I hear her voice almost daily in the back of my head right now. I am trying to listen…

  • C ynthia Hashbarger

    Dear Lynne.. What a good ‘kick in the pants’ this was for me to clean out my art studio and move forward with a lighter pace., and simpler supplies.. Why in the world do those of us with creative blood in our veins accumulate so much “stuff”.. Perhaps because it came from a friend(who was purging) or it was a sale or we loved the colors.. Upward and on ward I say.. and thanks for your insight and encouragement to ‘lighten”.. Happy New Year.. Cynthia

  • Robin Rice

    Of all the quilts I have made over the years (lots and lots), the one’s with the simple patterns are my favorites. I think I feel the same about my life – when it gets too complex it isn’t as much fun. The simple patterns allow me to stop and take a look at the colors, in both life and quilts.

  • Sharron Luft

    On Monday, the first day of school after Winter Break, the superintendent came to my room looking for me. He asked me if I was still willing to take on a second class, a 6th grade English class, until the end of this school year. “Certainly,” I responded, thinking of the outrageous credit card bill we’ve built since we began refurnishing our livingroom. “Great!” said Tom with a smile on his face; “How about picking up a 7th grade class also? Of course, you’ll have a prep time and will meet with them before lunch.” So, I’m thinking, I’ll be committed 5 hours a day each week and will have 3 preparations everyday and also around 60 essays to grade every two weeks. I’ll have no benefits and will be paid an hourly wage, a small one. “No, Tom, that’s more than I want to do.” I loved saying no to more work; I loved it so much I will say no to all regular “work” from now on. It’s my gift to myself for my 2012 birthday of 68 years. I will be thrilled to be retired.

  • Lori

    I grew up with parents whose motto was “waste not, want not”. Being a creative person, I am always interested in the process of creating, as well as the finished piece. I love to find the answers to “how does that work? how can I make something out of that? what happens if I mix this with that?” This had led to the boxes of beads, fabric, ribbon, glass tile, paints, rubber stamps, inks, etc. that fill my workroom to overflowing. Sometimes I long to “backpack” through life, but I don’t have the energy or time to weed through the stash, so it grows. I am hoping to move soon, and one of the benefits (I hope) will be that I take the time to purge, to weed out. To release to someone else materials that they can them use to fuel their creative endeavors. Thanks Lynne for the inspiration!

  • Karen Fuller Mauro

    I’d like to open this blog by thanking you, Lynne, for creating an opportunity & place for me to reflect and process my inner world. I am validated and inspired by the responses written by others too. I pray you have a blessed 2012.

    My focus for 2012 is to work on bringing my cares to Jesus and allowing Him to guide my mind as I think things out in His presence. One verse I’ve chosen to focus on living out is to “Be Still and Know that I Am God” (Ps. 46:10) Other ways “be still” is stated in different translations of the Bible are “cease striving”, relax” and let go. And for me “let go” resonates the strongest within me.

    The topic at hand is a sensitive one for me because I feel like I’m sometimes on the OCD side of things when it comes letting go of stuff. For me, less stuff equals less stress. And the more stress I have in my life, the less I am able to relax because God is Lord over all and is in complete control.
    Hence, evaluating, organizing and purging all forms of the “Stuff” in my life is a behavior/mindset is daily occurence taking place.

    Implementing professional organizers techniques, like TeriLynn Mabbit’s and integrating them with Lynne’s ideas…. the bins I’ve placed my stuff in are: Technical Clutter, Life Changing Clutter, Behavioral/Psychological Clutter and Time/Life Management Clutter. The deaths of four family members, a divorce, ten moves and new marriage all within a ten year time frame led me a need to have a healthy relationship to the stuff in my life.

    Today, it’s the integration of Francine Jay’s book, “The Joy of Less” and Sarah Young’s devotional “Jesus Calling-Enjoying Peace In His Presence” that is in the works within me.

    One of my favorite quotes from Francine Jay is “The less stuff we have cluttering our homes (and the less “to-do’s” cluttering our time), the more energy we can devote to the things that are truly important to us making room to move freely, think clearly and open ourselves to the beauty and wonders of life”. This idea, along with Sara Young’s idea that encourages us to “not cling to our old ways as we step into a new year. Instead seek His Face with an open mind, knowing that our journey with Him involves being transformed by the renewing of our minds”.

    During my New Year’s break I completed two projects. The first project was to redo our storage situation for the seasonal decorations. Lord willing, I’ll be taking finals the second week of Dec. So, the various seasonal things I do during November and December are already prepped and protected.

    The more challenging project I completed was
    evaluating, organizing and purging all of our files. (I scanned the items that I may feel regrets about destroying and archived them on rewritable CD’s. I ended up shredding three garbage bags full burnable items and then taking them to the back area of of yard and burning them. (Fortunatley most of the items burned were technical items so not too much emotionally laden decisions had to be made) The ashes from my little controlled paper burn is mixed in the the ashes from the last year’s garden debri and old wood from the remodel of this house from over 20 years ago. And all of these ashes will be mixed in with new soil we will use for our restoration project taking place in the four acres of our land that borders the creek and hillside. I’ll also add the soil/ash mixture to my garden beds. By doing this, I feel like if I might regret purging of the really meaningful things in my life later…they’re not really gone, they’re in the beauty I see everyday on our land.

    These two projects have helped me feel like I’ve created the spiritual, mental, psychological and physical space for this new beginning. And I can rest knowing that God is in complete control and it is only through Him that I will be able to walk through this new year without clinging on to things and ways that do not promote a positive direction.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>